Top Asian Prospects - 2013

The Asian Leagues have their own professional leagues so signing players from that area is difficult without drawing the ire of the other league for raiding their talent base.  The Asian pitchers usually lack the velocity to be number one starters and the hitters lack the power of their American counterparts.  Players with speed, who can play defense are valued more.  Those skills are changing but it will take time to eliminate the stigma.  You can take a look at last year’s list here:  Only Junichi Tazawa graduated to major league service time.

Players from Japan who are over thirty years old such as shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima or relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa are not considered prospects so are not included in this list.  Myworld will still consider any player under thirty.

1. Hyun-jin Ryu LHP (Los Angeles Dodgers) Korea - He’s a bit tubby, out of shape and lacks overpowering velocity in his fastball, yet the Dodgers still shelled out big bucks to sign him.  They paid $25 million to the Hanwha Eagles just to negotiate a contract with him.  Ryu had success in the KBO with superb command and an excellent changeup.  Whether this will replicate itself against major league hitters will soon be discovered.  One thing that can be said about him is he has a lot of confidence in his ability to succeed.

2. Hak-Ju Lee SS (Tampa Bay Rays) Korea - Myworld saw Hak-ju Lee play for the first time today.  He booted the only routine grounder hit his way and he appears to be facing pitchers who bust him inside.  He did fight off a pitch and blooped it over the third baseman’s head for a single, but he also swung and missed at three pitches in his next at bat.  He runs fast but he doesn’t steal as many bases as his speed should allow and he plays excellent defense despite the error he made today.  The one question mark for him is his bat and whether it will play in the major leagues.  He doesn’t have the strength to hit for any power.

3. Tzu-Wei Lin SS (Boston Red Sox) Taiwan - He could be the Taiwan version of Lee.  He has speed, plays smooth defense but has a questionable bat.  He could eventually hit for power but his smallish 5′9″ frame should prevent any displays of power.  The Red Sox signed him for $2.05 million in 2012, the largest bonus ever for a position player out of Taiwan.

4. Chen Lee RHP (Cleveland Indians) Taiwan - The Indians do a good job of scouting the Taiwan area.  They signed Lee for $400,000 in 2008.  If he didn’t pitch out of the bullpen he could have competed with Wei-yin Chen in 2012 for best starting pitcher from Taiwan.  He has been used strictly in relief and he blew out his elbow, undergoing Tommy John surgery to end his season last year after only five games.  Prior to the surgery he threw 95 but sat in the low 90s.  He struggles with his command and does not have the one dominating pitch to be successful as a closer.  Lee will probably not be ready to pitch until mid-season

5. Naoki Hasimoto RHP (Cleveland Indians) Japan - The Indians signed three Japanese players who were not drafted by Japanese teams.  Right handed pitcher Kota Kobayashi and outfielder Takuya Tsuchida are two such players, but Naoki is the most intriguing for his 95 mile per hour fastball.  Like most Japanese pitchers, Naoki throws a bevy of pitches and has pretty good command of those pitches.  Or so the few reports on him read.  At 22 years of age he will be best served pitching in a full season league to show whether what is written about him matches his results on the field.

6. Chia-jin Lo LHP (Houston Astros) Taiwan - Prior to his Tommy John surgery the lefthander had pretty good juice on his fastball, hitting the low 90s.  Myworld already has seen him make an appearance this spring and he showed a good breaking ball.  His fastball also seemed to have some juice to it, though there is no radar gun readings at Kissimmee park.  If he pitches well in the spring and carries that into the minor leagues he should be in the Astros bullpen by mid-season.

7. Jin-de Jhang C (Pittsburgh Pirates) Taiwan - Japan doesn’t even try to recruit foreign catchers because of the language difficulties communicating with the pitchers.  The major league teams do not seem to have an issue with this.  The Pirates signed Jhang for $250,000 in 2011.  Jhang played rookie ball last year, hitting .305 with one homerun.  He shows the tools to be a solid defensive catcher and the strength to power up.

8. Dae-eun Rhee RHP (Chicago Cubs) Korea - The numbers are just not there.  This year he started 26 games in AA and finished with an ERA of 4.81.  His strikeout percentage dropped from 8.2 whiffs per nine innings to 4.93, failing to achieve the 2 to 1 separation in walk to whiff ratio teams look for in their pitchers.  He is not overpowering with a fastball in the high 80s to low 90s and relies on a change to get hitters out.  Opposition batting averages are usually high against him and last year they stood at .298.

9. Ji-man Choi C (Seattle Mariners) Korea - We wrote about him here:  Back issues have prevented him from repeating his rookie season when he hit .378 in 2010.  Those back issues appear to be resolved and the Mariners sent him to the Australian Baseball League where he hit .309 with 8 homeruns and 31 RBIs.

10. Chun Chen 1B (Cleveland Indians) Taiwan - When he was a catcher he had a better shot at making a major league roster.  His defense never worked out behind the plate so the Indians moved him to first base and DH.  Chen doesn’t have the power typical of most players at the position but he should hit for average hitting .308 last year.  Since he is just learning the position he needs some time to figure out the nuances for first base.

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